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Delphi Internet Services, the U.S.' fifth-largest online service, is making its first push for customers outside the U.S.

Delphi earlier this month began marketing to potential subscribers in the U.K., and it's believed the service is gearing up for a similar push in Australia.

Ads appearing in newspapers and computer publications from Arc Advertising, London, contain a telephone number that potential customers can dial with their computer modems for 5 free hours on Delphi.

Delphi, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has been available in the U.K. since July to a limited, trial audience, but hasn't been advertised until now.

Subscribers will get U.K.-specific content from News Corp. properties like The Times, as well as access to all of Delphi's U.S. material and the Internet.

The company hopes the full-Internet-access niche will catch on with U.K. consumers, who have been slow to embrace online services.

"Online services are very small in the U.K.-we're about three or four years behind the U.S. in awareness," said Jonathan Miller, Delphi's U.K. editor. "But the catch-up period won't be three or four years."

Delphi will have to hustle to catch up with CompuServe, which has about 60,000 subscribers in the U.K., still just a handful of the 3 million computer users there.

"We would like to be somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 subscribers by the end of this year," said Phil Barrett, head of member services for Delphi in the U.K.

Delphi may be hindered by its lack of a friendly graphic user interface. The company has been working toward a redesign in the U.S., but technical problems have delayed its implementation.

Delphi also faces impending competition from Europe Online, a planned pan-European online service. And Apple Computer's eWorld plans to expand into the U.K. beginning in October.

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